New tech can help seniors remain at home

submitted photo • Learn about technologies that can help older people live longer in their own homes — such as this robot that can connect users with a social worker — during a Feb. 8 talk at the Roseville Library.

Talking pill boxes, stove shut-off devices, motion-sensor lighting, a robotic pet cat, even a robot that can give you “face time” with a social worker — all are technologies that can help some older people live longer in their own homes.

Those and other high-tech and low-tech devices will be on display during a presentation at the Roseville Library from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8. The library is located at 2180 Hamline Ave. N.

The session, called Technological Resources for Caregivers, is part of the Dementia Caring & Coping series sponsored by the Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team.

With the fancy robot, “it’s sort of like Skyping with a device that moves around like a Roomba” rug vacuum, said Kate Ingalls-Maloney, coordinator of the Learning Lab for Eldercare Technologies in Minneapolis, who will show off the equipment.

“Some of these things people probably have some idea about, but others are really new ways to help keep people safer in their homes,” she said. The Learning Center is operated by Augustana Care, which provides senior housing and in-home services in Minnesota and Colorado.

The center opened last spring, supported in part by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, to test and demonstrate devices and computer programs that can help older people avoid or delay moving to more intensive care settings.

While robotic dogs and cats can be effective “pets” for some people with dementia, a new robot still being pilot-tested by the Learning Lab offers a potential to provide medical check-ins, social work advice or even social time with family and friends, Ingalls-Maloney said.

The Learning Lab last fall began testing the robot — normally used to offer tutoring to homebound students — instead to provide face-to-face communication through a high-quality screen controlled by a family member or nurse, for instance. It is being used in four homes now, with four more planned in coming weeks.

“There is amazing technology out there — new ways that we hope can have a big impact on helping more of us stay where we want to stay — right at home,” Ingalls-Maloney said.

For more information about the Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team and resources for families dealing with dementia, go to


—Warren Wolfe retired from the Star Tribune, where he wrote about aging and health care issues. He’s also active with Roseville A/D.

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